The Braves just lost 20-6 so I figured it was a good time to fire up the Play Index and check out other times the Braves pitching gave up at least twenty. This is a good moment to tell you that if you aren’t already a Play Indez subscriber at Baseball-Reference, you should be. It’s a fun way to look up things just like this.
One little note. Play Indez goes back to 1914.
The last time the Braves gave up 20 runs was July 1, 2003 when the then-Florida Marlins beat the Braves 20-1. I’ll list the pitchers that day and you’ll probably say, “well, that makes sense.” Mike Hampton, Jung Bong, Trey Hodges, and Roberto Hernandez. Hampton alone was charged with nine runs while recording 12 outs. Funny thing about this game is that Rafael Furcal led off the game with a single and advanced to second when Florida’s Brian Banks overran the ball. After a groundout advanced Fookie, he scored on a Gary Sheffield grounder against Josh Beckett so the Braves drew first blood. A bases loaded walk in the first tied it before Miguel Cabrera – HITTING 8TH! – led off the bottom of the second with a homer.
The most runs surrendered by the Braves came on July 3, 1945. The Cubs scored two-dozen runs against Boston to cruise to a 24-2 win. Whitey Wietelmann, who began the game at second, finished the game on the mound and gave up the final six runs. This game concluded a streak of 17 years without giving up at least 20 runs, the longest streak between 20-run massacres during this sample.
The most pitchers used in one of these bloodbaths came on June 8, 1990 when Atlanta called on six relievers after Derek Lilliquist started and was removed after recording just ten outs. Two weeks later, Russ Nixon would be removed from his job as Bobby Cox left the GM spot and managed the rest of the season. And the 20 to come.
The Braves have not been shutout in any of these games. They’ve scored one run three times, including in 1999 when Hall of Famer John Smoltz took the mound against Mike Mussina and the Orioles. Smoltz gave up as many runs as outs he record (seven each) and finished with a Game Score of 15. Justin Speier was awful, Kevin McGlinchy was putrid, Russ Springer was (consults thesaurus) dreadful, and Rudy Seanez just sucked. Only Mike Remlinger was able to avoid trouble in his one inning where he lowered his ERA to 1.47. Ryan Klesko hit a sacrifice fly to score Brian Jordan for the Braves’ only run.
The “closest” blow-out game on June 2, 1928. The Reds, who have done this three times to the Braves, scored 20 runs with the help of a five-run ninth. Rogers Hornsby, who was Boston’s manager and second baseman for the day, certainly liked his hitting a bit better than the team’s pitching. He went 3-for-5 with a double and a homer while Les Bell, hitting behind Hornsby, homered three times. Yet, they lost by eight. It was one of four games Art Mills pitched in that year. He gave five runs in two innings and finished the season with a 12.91 ERA.
The Reds aren’t the only team to put 20 or more on the Braves multiple times. The Dodgers did it twice – both while in Brooklyn – with the second time coming against Milwaukee, who only gave up 20 runs once. Also, the Giants have done it twice and have the honor of doing it while representing two different cities. I already spoke of the 1990 beating, but they also did it in the first half of a double-header back on September 10, 1924 at the Polo Grounds. The Braves also lost the second game 8-0 meaning that they were outscored 30-1 in one day. It should surprise you none that the ’24 Boston Braves finished 53-100 with a run differential of -278. There’s bad and there’s 1924 Braves bad.
Not all the blame can fall on the pitchers. On July 2, 1925, the Boston Braves were defeated by the Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) 20-7. Only five runs were earned due to six errors. Rube Marquard faced six batters and allowed all to reach before being replaced. All scored and only one was earned.
All in all, since 1914, Sunday marks the 13th time the Braves have surrendered at least 20 runs. It has never happened twice in one year and only twice (1924-25, 1970-71) has it happened in back-to-back years so if there is some kind of bet where you can wager if the Braves give up 20 or more runs in 2016, I’d put money on it not happening.